Know your analyst – Novice, Luminary or Sage

For IT vendor analyst relations (AR) teams, a critical success factor is treating each IT industry analyst as an individual, not some faceless member of a crowd. For example, knowing that an analyst loathes PowerPoint presentations can be an important “ah ha!” to improving a briefing by eliminating an irritation. Similar “ah ha!”s can be gleamed by knowing where an analyst is in his or her career. There are three major stages in an analyst’s growth cycle which will impact how you deal with them: Novice, Luminary and Sage. Each stage has specific motivators and the analyst comes into discussions with vendors with specific ideas, techniques, and needs.

While critical for AR teams, it is also important for research consumers – end user or vendor – to understand if the analysts they are reading or doing inquiries with are Novices, Luminaries or Sages. Each growth stage can provide different types of insights and advice.

The Novice Analyst – Motivated by knowing what their clients don’t know

Being a Novice analyst should not be considered a negative by any means. Novice analysts generally have strong industry experience – usually focused in one segment; have a sharp intellect; can be very technical; can easily identify market trends; and are comfortable discussing (or repeating) technical data. Novice’s are on such a fast learning track – and are quickly exposed to so many vendors and alternative solutions – that they can be somewhat impressionable given the right technology or solution.

Vendors dealing with the Novice analysts should look at this as a great opportunity to influence future thought leaders. New information is the currency of choice – provide all that you can. Novice analysts want to know everything they can, as soon as they can. You need to treat the Novice with as much respect as the most seasoned analyst. Remember – in many analyst firms the Novice spends most of his or her time on the phone with clients – your clients – expressing their views about you and your competitors.

The Luminary Analyst – Motivated by knowing what their peers don’t know.

These analysts have been around the industry and the analyst ranks for quite some time and tend to ask great questions. They quickly see through vendor hype; have little patience for marketing messages; are experienced in multiple industry topics; and understand vendor expectations, objectives and motivators. They have a clear understanding of the market, its trends, and all associated data and are looked to provide strategic advice on not only products and services, but their impact on future markets.

Luminary analysts have moved beyond vendor and industry recognition, and now are looking for those areas or insights that have not been written about by their peers, or are so new that detailed coverage is in its infancy. Motivating the Luminary, especially for leading edge vendors, is driven by a strong intellectual relationship between key people on the vendor side (product development or corporate strategy executives) and the analyst. These analysts strive for early information – before the crowd gets it – that will help them keep ahead of the other analysts’ knowledge curve. Luminaries are not impressed with fancy presentations. Stick to the facts – it will go a long way in supporting your cause.

The Industry Sage – Motivated by knowing what you don’t know.

The Industry Sage analysts are few and far between, but have a significant impact on vendors and users every day. Generally they have both vendor and user experience; speak and give actionable advice at both tactical and strategic levels; can easily relate technical and business concepts to the highest level executives; are generally in very high demand, both within the firm and across the industry; and have a high degree of business acumen. Meetings with them are always valuable.

Industry Sage’s have refined skills developed from years in the IT industry, and years in the analyst community. Their reputation has already been built within their chosen sector, and firm, and they are continually building that reputation across the industry and their client base. In general you will not see as much written research from the Sage, as they are spending most of their time speaking to users, vendors, other analysts, or are traveling.

The Sage is rarely in information gathering mode, but is in information dissemination mode. As such, they need succinct updates to their mental databases. A Sage wants what is new about a vendor’s strategy (not tactics); what new things a vendor is hearing from the customers/clients and prospects; and what new major competitor appeared out of left field that the Vendor is worried about. 

These analysts are critical when developing a vision, or defining a strategy. Treat them well by asking for advice. And if you execute on it, let them know the results. Challenge their thinking, but position the discussion as an intellectual exercise or thought experiment rather than as two adversaries looking to win the day. The Sage analyst will continually bring an out of the box perspective to what were considered unsolvable or thorny issues, and relish the thought of solving strategic problems or shaping strategic direction for a company. The impact of the Industry Sage on your business can be critical.

SageCircle Technique: AR teams should start tracking the growth stage of their Tier 1 and, maybe, Tier 2 analysts. Then AR teams can start small changes to their interactions (e.g., modifying the type of information provided) that can have a big impact.

Bottom Line: Different drivers motivate the successful Novice, Luminary or Sage Analyst. Using these motivators at the appropriate time can make the difference between success and failure, between a vendor having an advocate for their cause, or having an indifferent observer. A positive result can mean increased sales, increased exposure, and perhaps a long term relationship with a key influencer in your market.  


  • Vendors – Do you segment your analyst lists and key contacts by their experience level?
  • Clients – Do you know how to gain access to the correct analysts for an inquiry?   
  • Analysts – Do you appreciate when a vendor meets your research needs correctly and how can you better assist them in understanding those needs?

Are you treating each analyst as an individual and tailoring your outreach to meet their individual requirements? SageCircle can help. Our strategists can:

  • Provide on-site or distance learning sessions to get AR teams up to speed on best practices such as how to determine if an analyst is a Novice, Luminary or Sage
  • Review your recent interactions to determine how you might have changed your approach if you knew the stage of the analyst
  • Critique your plans to ensure that you are touching on the individual needs of analysts in a practical manner that won’t drain too many resources
  • Act as a sounding board as you brainstorm the mix of interactions for each stage of analyst growth

Interested in an analyst relations checkup?  Want to know how you stack up against best-in-class AR best practices? Request a free SageCircle AR Diagnostic.  Give us a half hour of your time, answer some questions, then we provide you with a concise analysis of your program.

To learn more contact us at info [at] sagecircle dot com or 650-274-8309.

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